Today in History – April 7, 1961 – Sidewinder misfire from F-100A blows off wing of B-52B

Boeing B-52B-30-BO Stratofortress #53-0380, of the 95th Bomb Wing, Strategic Air Command, out of Biggs AFB, El Paso. Shown at Biggs in July 1959, before it was christened Ciudad Juarez.

7 April 1961 –  The B-52B Ciudad Juarez (named in honor of El Paso’s sister city across the Rio Grande) took off on a practice mission to provide a target for two F-100A’s piloted by 1LT James van Scyoc and Cpt. Dale Dodd both from the 188th NMANG. The Huns started their run at the “BUFF” from 34.000 ft. They each carried GAR-8 Sidewinder (AIM-9B) missiles.

The missiles were live but wired so that only the seeker head was active. (2) “Van Scyoc, then 27, was not only the 188th’s safety officer but had written standard operating procedures on the Sidewinder. With a toggle switch in the nonfiring position and a circuit breaker off, the launch of a GAR-8 was theoretically impossible.” (1)

Ciudad Juarez was on autopilot. Blodgett heard Van Scyoc call, “Look out! One of my missiles is loose!” just before the bomber shuddered and rolled left. The Sidewinder had exploded in the port side inboard engine pod, blowing off the wing. As the B-52 heeled over into a spin, his copilot ejected, but Blodgett—nearly trapped by G forces in the burning cockpit—only just managed to hit the alarm button and pull his own ejection handle. At 12:15 p.m. Ciudad Juarez made a 75-foot crater on Mount Taylor, taking three crewmen with it. Blodgett broke his pelvis on landing but was soon found by Singleton, who’d been burned bailing out through blazing jet fuel. They and three others survived. (1)

“An inquiry fully exonerated Van Scyoc, finding that moisture had condensed in a worn connector plug, causing a short that allowed the Sidewinder to launch. Further investigation revealed that almost all Guard F-100s had the same faulty wiring. (The F-100A was not designed to fire Sidewinders; launchers had been added when the type entered ANG service.) That problem was rectified. Moreover, these days such training is conducted with dummy missiles: live seeker heads, no motors.”(1)

Ciudad Juarez wreck

“The crew of the ill-fated B-52 were:

Capt. Donald C. Blodgett (Aircraft Commander)
Capt. Ray C. Obel (Co-pilot)
Capt. Peter J. Gineris (Navigator)
Capt. Stephen Carter (Bombardier)
Capt. George D. Jackson (ECM)
2nd Lt. Glenn Bair (ECM Student)
S/Sgt. Ray A. Singleton (Gunner)
S/Sgt. Manuel L. Mieras (Maintenance Controller)

Captains Gineris and Carter and Lt. Bair lost their lives in the accident.  The survivors all suffered injuries with Sergeant Mierea losing his legs.” (2)

Sources: (1) (2)

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